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Drive setup - RAID choice

Last response: in Storage
November 7, 2006 9:09:52 AM

Hi, first post and I've tried searching first ;) 

I've just ordered my new system after lots of research.
C2D6600, 2Gb Corsair CL4, MSI P965i Platinum, 7900GTO, P180B, Schythe Ninja, etc and importantly for this question 4x Maxtor 160Gb SATA300 drives.

Now I know the Maxtors arn't the fastest or the greatest but I've not had one fail on me and they are quiet (something I prefer in an HDD).

My question is this, how should I set them up?

I'm keen to protect "some" data (no more than 1 disc's worth)...but I also want to have blistering game loading performance. And I'm only using the MoBo's SATA RAID controller.

Which RAID setup should I use? I don't want to "lose" more than 1 disc to data integrity if I can help I was thinking of doing 2 arrays.
RAID 0 for the C: Drive and RAID 1 for the D: as the mirrored drives access speed isn't paramount to my needs (holding music etc).
But, there are other RAID options and I don't know if they can give me all I want in a more simplified solution...

Would RAID5 be fast enough? I don't mind a SLIGHT hit on the I/O to have all 4 in 1 RAID5 array...if that means I can have just 1 partition and all my data effectively backed up.

RAID10 seems to A) not be possible on MoBo controllers and B) uses too many drives.

The more I'm reading the more RAID5 is appealing...all the drives are the same...but the only issue is it's rebuild ability.

Sorry for the waffle...hope someone can make the decision for me... :)  I'm tempted to build it both ways (1x RAID0+1x RAID1 or RAID5) and benchmark it each time to get a definitive as I think a lot will depend on the RAID controllers abilities...but does anyone have a definitive answer?
November 7, 2006 10:16:34 AM

hi and welcome to Toms

thanks for searching for the topic first most people just post w/o concern regarding whether the topic has been dealt with before a lot of people could leaarn a lesson from you

regarding your post i have a similar setup regarding diskdrives i have 3 seagate 120Gbs one seagate 250GB and a maxtor 80Gb

i use one of the 120s as my system drive
the other 2 120s are set up in a raid 0 and keeps hold of my games and other frequently accessed files

the 250 stores all of my backups. i Manually copy the contents of documents, Media, savegames etc that i want stored. i make a point of doing this every 2 weeks to make sure things are as i want them

finally the 80Gb stores my music and video files

i find this the best setup for me without having to maintain a complicated array although i would like to experiment with a raid 0 system drive but will probably just buy a raptor for my next build
November 7, 2006 12:37:23 PM

Thanks for your input though I don't feel your setup is what I'm looking for.

I definitely don't want to rely on myself to back up my own data...if I did I'd get an external drive and have the flexibility of being able to move the content about.

To simplify things my question is this;

Is RAID5 going to be fast enough for a games PC or should I stick to RAID0 for games and a separate RAID1 for data I want to keep.
Related resources
November 7, 2006 1:10:47 PM

RAID 5 probably wouldn't give you the performance you want for games. I would suggest a RAID 0+1. It gives you I/O's you'd want for fast load times and mirroring but then you lose 2 drives because of the mirror...which you didn't want.

I personally would put 3 drives in a RAID 0 array and have the other one for backups. Any good backup program should have the ability to schedule backups so you set it up once, then forget about it... until your drive fills up I guess?

If you search Tom's you should be able to find an answer to this or Google it. I went through the same issues when building my pc. I settled on a RAID 0 with an extra drive for backups.
November 7, 2006 1:11:56 PM

Well, to each his own, but here's my input.

RAID 5 is fine for loading games. RAID 5 is great for read, but slow on writes. Also, consider that the more spindles you have accessing data, the greater the speed in accessing data (more heads and more spindles).

Also, I don't think you'll find that the loading time for many games will be all that terrible between RAID 5 and RAID 0. Honestly, I don't see a whole lot of difference between RAID 0 and one disk, but hey, I'm not looking to shave 1.5 seconds off a 10 second load. I just don't think the gain is worth the extra time spent messing with the system (you know, spend another 2 hours to shave a few seconds off loading time).
November 7, 2006 1:26:11 PM

Well I am no expert but here is what I know.

Raid 0 You choice for speed. You might not be blown away by the speed, but it is the fastest setup. You do not get data protection and if one drive goes then both are done for from a data point of view.

Raid 1 Small performance hit compared to single drive. Data is protected against 1 drive failure. Total drive space is 1/2 the total of the two drives.

Raid 5 Slow. I had this on a server and it was slow because windows views this as one drive with one i/o queue, so it is not good for heavy i/o functions (read and write at the same time). You would be ok with this but it is not faster than raid 0. You can lose a drive and still be ok.

Raid 10. This is exclusively used by our data center as it gives both protection and performance. You can afford to lose up to 2 drives in this setup and still function. Requires a minimum of 4 drives and you only get 1/2 the space of the total of all 4 drives. This is only supported on the MSI 965 Platinum the Neo-F does not support this.

For your needs I would suggest a Raid 0 array for performance I would include windows install on this raid array. Remember to set this up in Bios before installing windows. I would then use the other two drives in Raid 1 for data protection against Hardware failure. This will not protect you from deleting data only protect you against harddrive failures or in my case it survived a lighting hit, all other drives lost their data. Thank you Promise technologies.

You should implement a backup strategy of some sort. If you have a DVD RW drive you can use this for your most important music and video files as well as your most important other files. Just update them everytime you save them to you Raid 1 array. I leave my DVD in the drive and use DLA to make it drag and dropable. When I have finished updating my important files I just copy then to the DVD and I am good.

Hope this helps you out.

If you do not have Raid 10 as a option then I assume you have the Neo-F board. Remember to have the Intel Raid drives on a floppy at windows install time and hit F6 to load them so that you can install to the Raid 0 array.

Good luck with your build.
November 7, 2006 2:24:43 PM

Just realised I do have the RAID10 is a Platinum...thanks for making me check more thoroughly...0+1 isn't listed though which is confusing as I thought it was the same basic thing as RAID10...but anyway.

I'm still not any clearer...I have a feeling it won't matter either way.

Thanks for all the info so far - I'm trying to take it all in...but it is a minefield.
November 7, 2006 2:31:55 PM


For your needs I would suggest a Raid 0 array for performance I would include windows install on this raid array. Remember to set this up in Bios before installing windows. I would then use the other two drives in Raid 1 for data protection against Hardware failure. This will not protect you from deleting data only protect you against harddrive failures or in my case it survived a lighting hit, all other drives lost their data. Thank you Promise technologies.

I think I'll got for the RAID0 and RAID1 to start with. I'm using a single disk with a RAID1 at the moment and it has served my purposes. I will have a hard backup too on DVD but I tend to only make a backup like that everytime I rebuild.
November 7, 2006 8:39:30 PM

I just went with Raid 5 as it seems to have a read-equivalent to Raid 0 ( w/3 drives) and a write equivaltent to Raid 0 (2 drives). For reading maps and games, a 3 drive Raid 0 system is mucho fast (170 MB/s sustained) and I don't care too much about writing.

I have 4, 500G seagate 7200.10 sata 300 drives on an ICH7r system which should give me a little more than 1.5T for drive C (@ ~$750)... :)  After a little more research (and benchmarking) I may change to Raid 10 but I don't think so.

November 7, 2006 9:11:43 PM

Thanks Joe,

I'm left wondering if anyone has any benchmarks to prove what's better or worse?!

I'll have another mooch about the web and see what I can find.

If I have to run the tests myself I will, though I don't know what benchmarking software to use right now!
November 7, 2006 9:37:21 PM

Well I'm too lazy to look up benchies right now but I'll tell you this: RAID 5 is a great solution. It's not as bad as some people say it is on writes and it's pretty decent on reads. Plain and simple, if you don't mind a little performance hit on reads and writes but still like the redundancy, RAID 5 is the way to go. If you're really anal about that, then get a dedicated RAID controller with RAID 3.
November 7, 2006 11:47:52 PM

Here is a link to a benchmarks.

Remember performance of Raid 0 is dependent on what size of blocks you setup. If you have use mostly files less than 32kb and you make the size 32kb you get no benefit as the blocks are written in this size or less. So one 32kb block ends up on one of the two drives. If this is the entire file then you see no read or write benefit. If your file was 64kb then you would get 2 blocks and one would be written to each drive (assuming 2 drive array). This would improve read and write as it can make use of the two drives.

This performance report is a litte older but covers desktop chip sets.

Here is another one focused on raid 0 or raid 1.

OK one more on Raptor Raid performance.

Hope this helps.
November 8, 2006 12:04:02 AM

Great info, I think this will help him a ton. Great analysis. Now the reason I said RAID 5 was because he said he didn't want to sacrifice more than one drive. The block size is very true, I use a 512kB block size becasue most of my files are pretty big (all my music is .wav). But yeah, also, with RAID 3 you'll get similar performance to RAID 5 but the difference is that there's one dedicated parity drive.
November 8, 2006 12:37:22 AM

Here's a suggestion:

1 drive for OS, partitioned into three parts: (a) OS+swap (b) duplicate of OS+swap (c) infrequently-accessed files / junk, e.g. downloaded files

2 drives in RAID 0 or RAID 1 for programs & data

1 drive for external backup


1. Separating OS/swap/personal folders & programs+data onto separate drives will give performance improvement by speeding concurrent access

2. Keeping OS separate & simple will make maintenance easier, esp. of RAID.

3. RAID 1 for security. Intel RAID 1 also gives performance improvement for reads, but there are lots of variants -- I'd recommend benching your setup to be sure.

4. RAID 0 doesn't give security, but gives good read + write speed. Offhand, I'd suggest stripe size = 64k / # of drives.

5. External backup > any RAID for security, and can help you maintain your RAID. There's a problem of size though. RAID 1 or short-stroking RAID 0 (create partition only large enough for back up) can help.